Higher sin taxes will save people — solon

THOUSANDS of people will be saved by increased sin taxes, Albay Rep. Joey Salceda said as he expressed gratitude to President Duterte for signing Republic No. 11467 or the reform in “sin tax” on alcohol and e-cigarette products.

Salceda, chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means,  said that the increase in excise taxes on alcohol and e-cigarettes would save thousands of lives due to lesser consumption of unhealthy products, while saving hundreds of thousands more due to enhanced funding for universal health care.

“Once again, the President acted decisively for the public interest. Alcohol alone accounts for as many as 10,372 road crashes every year. Based on anecdotal evidence from the PGH, the number is probably bigger, as they claim that about 50 percent of all vehicular accident cases that they treat have some alcohol involved,” Salceda said.

Reports of the health department and organizations said that alcoholism is linked with about 40 main diseases, including liver cirrhosis, cancer, pancreatic disease, hypertensive disease, tuberculosis, diabetes, and mental diseases.

According to 2016 data of the World Health Organization, some 4,431 per 100,000 population of Filipinos died from liver cirrhosis; 16,418 from hypertensive diseases; and 8,526 from tuberculosis – all linked to excessive use of alcohol. Surely, any move that reduces average national consumption is good news, Salceda said.

Last year, an article from The Economist ranked alcohol as the drug that causes the most overall harm. The article cited a 2010 study by British medical experts David J. Nutt, Leslie A. King, Lawrence D. Phillips which ranked intoxicating substances according to the harm the users cause on themselves and on others when they consume the drug.

Likewise, Salceda stressed that because alcohol is linked with vehicular accidents, violence against women and children, and other acts of imprudence and violence, alcohol is considered among the most socially-harmful substances. Alcohol is also the leading killer of young people aged 19 to 24.

Preliminary estimates from the Department of Finance (DOF) indicate that alcohol may have an economic cost of as much as 1.7 percent of GDP every year, equivalent to about a third of the country’s annual health expenditure.

“My own estimates come somewhere closer to 2.0 percent of GDP, when you account for lost productivity on those who did not use alcohol, but were somehow harmed by someone who was under the influence of alcohol. If you could recover all of that, theoretically we could be growing by 8 to 9 percent every year, not to mention we would be healthier,” Salceda said, as he lauded the increase in excise taxes on e-cigarettes.

“Precautionary principle dictates that we should have taxed it higher and regulated it more closely the first time we taxed it because it was a new product with little clinical examination. As soon as I became Chair, I moved to correct the problem. I’m glad President Duterte fully agrees,” he added.

The measure would raise a net of P17 billion to help close the gap for fully funding universal health care.

Salceda committed earlier last year to find funding sources to completely implement the program.

“At some point in the future, of course, we will have to review the alcohol taxes. I’m bullish about Philippine growth, and with growth comes purchasing power. With RA 11467, we have made alcohol less affordable, but we didn’t change in ASEAN in terms of ranking for how cheap alcohol is. And the more the average Filipino earns in the next few years, the more affordable alcohol will become. Natural naman sa policymaking ang openness to future evaluation,” Salceda said.